Let's start off with the good side of things. One of the feel-good stories so far this year has been New Orleans and their new 30-year old coach, Joe Pasternack, who wanted the head coaching job that other coaches left for assistant gigs down the benches at other, higher-profile schools.
So far, it seems that Pasternack was the perfect guy for the job, as the Privateers have now beaten NC State and Colorado on the road. Add to that four other wins, and UNO is 6-1.
The Privateers are also doing it with senior leadership with guys like Shaun Reynolds, James Parlow, Bo McCalebb and Ben Elias. Parlow and McCalebb are from New Orleans and had their families affected two and a half years ago by Hurricane Katrina.
McCalebb can flat out score on anybody, and even declared in the spring for the draft, before water-testing and coming back to school. He's one of the players at the mid-major level that college basketball diehards know probably doesn't get his due from the national powers that be.
The revelation for UNO this year has been juco transfer Kendall Dykes, who is averaging nearly 15 a game on 52% shooting and is his team's leading rebounder to boot. While Western Kentucky are still the favorites in the Sun Belt, teams like UNO, South Alabama and, yes, North Texas all look like contending for the crown.
On the bad side of things there's Louisville, a team that is really in shambles right now.
The most intriguing game of the many I watched last Saturday was Dayton and Louisville. In the first half, you could have removed the names from the jerseys and it would have been Dayton who looked like the preseason Final Four contenders and Louisville the consensus bubble/NIT team.
The final score wound up 70-65, but was only that close because Dayton had a prolonged cold spell from the floor in the first part of the second half. Brian Roberts of Dayton was simply amazing and went for 28 on 10-17 shooting.
Here were the weird things, both on the Louisville side.
1) Rick Pitino benching PG Edgar Sosa with around 10 minutes remaining and the game very close. This is a Louisville team without David Padgett and Juan Palacios. They suited up just eight scholarship players.
Sure, Sosa was playing poorly, but to bench a key player for the last 10 minutes of the second half on a team with little-to-no depth seemed bizarre.
2) The other is Derrick Caracter, who should have to have his named changed for media purposes to Derrick Caracter 'Issues'. This is a guy that, without Padgett available, absolutely needs to perform for his team to have a chance in a close game. Instead he chooses, on one play in particular, to sulk in the lane after being denied the ball on the right block by good Flyers defense. There were other times where Caracter looked content with being fronted in the post.
He led his team with 16 in that game, but that fails to tell any part of the story.
A couple days ago, it was learned that Caracter has been suspended indefinitely for violating team curfew. So, if you're scoring at home, this is a team whose point guard is in his coach's doghouse (for whatever reason, no one ever knows these things when we're talking about Pitino) and is down to seven scholarship players.
But yet, this is analogous to last December when Louisville was 5-4 and looked to be going nowhere then. Watch out for another 'They've really gotten things together" kind of run in last January and February, even though it seems like a stretch right now.